Thursday, 5 June 2014

A Heartbreaking Choice- What If It Were You?

I read an amazing post over at Still Standing today. It was written by Tova Gold a fellow Baby Loss Mom. The subject is one that for some reason isn't talked about as much in the loss community; the termination of a pregnancy for medical reasons. It was a moving insight into the experience of hearing that your baby has a condition that won't be compatible with life and the choices you are forced to make in the aftermath.

What touched me the most was that there were photos and names of 80 women (and their babies) who have found themselves in the same situation as Tova. This piece was written from the heart and is so well done that I won't try and recap it here. You can click the link above to read it for yourself.

When I finished the article I was moved almost to tears. Then I started reading the comments and my blood began to boil. What I saw mixed in with the words of condolence and support was so ugly I couldn't believe it. Were people actually attacking these women for the situation they found themselves in? Were people actually going to criticize and judge women who have lost their children? Much to my dismay they were and I found the whole thing very unsettling.

In my mind, the only difference between what these women went through and what I did was that they had advanced notice. I didn't know anything was wrong until it was too late. They knew in advance that their baby would die and were faced with an impossible decision. Do you terminate now? Or do you carry to term knowing that your baby will either not make it or will die at or shortly after birth? That's not a choice I would want to have to make.

But these women found themselves faced with this very dilemma. A heartbreaking choice needed to be made. To go about something like this you may rely on your faith or you may go based purely on your emotions. There are many layers and dimensions to either choice. I would imagine that many hours of reflection and tears have been poured into each and every decision. Neither path leads to a happy ending.

I liken it to that game where you choose between two horrible things and say which one you would want. Like would you want to chop your arm off or let it fall of by itself? Is there really a good option? Of course not. Either way you lose your arm and neither way sounds particularly pleasant.

Somehow, not unsurprisingly, matters like this get tied to the pro-choice/pro-life debate. I am not here to debate that issue but I will say this; there is no life at the end of this decision. In the end you get a dead baby, period! It's just a matter of how it happens.

So to read comments where people are condemning women for choosing to terminate a pregnancy where there is no chance of a living baby makes me sick to my stomach. Who are these people to tell someone that they should carry a pregnancy to term that they know is doomed? For that matter, who are these people to tell women who choose to carry to term that they are being foolish or causing their babies undue suffering?

Who are these people to not offer these women the same sympathy that people who suffer a stillbirth or neonatal death get? Just because we didn't know ahead of time doesn't make our loss any more worthy of condolence. Just because these women did know doesn't mean they deserve to be judged on the decision they made. It's not like they wanted to have to make it.

So for all of you who sit in judgement I challenge you. Put yourself in their shoes. I mean it. Really allow yourselves to go there. To go to that horrible place where you have just been told that your unborn child has no chance of viability outside the womb. Put yourself in that mindset and then tell me what you would do. Then tell me how it would feel to have people judge you for it.


  1. APPLAUSE. I haven't read the SS article yet, but there is so much judging, even within the loss community. Loss is loss, whether you know ahead of time or not.

  2. The idea of judgment in a situation like that infuriates me. In a way, I'm grateful that we were spared having to make a choice, because there are no "right" answers. Like you said, you end up with a dead baby no matter what. My heart goes out to those mamas who had to make impossible decisions.

  3. This just makes me sad. Kindness matters...and we need a lot more of it. Agree or disagree... but on a basic human level, Just. Be. Nice.

  4. This is exactly what happened to me with Little M. It was our choice, due to his polycystic kidneys causing zero lung development we chose to give birth at 23 weeks. I could not comprehend 17 more weeks of living life knowing I would lose my son. Strangers asking me if it was a boy or girl, when am I due? My daughter becoming more and more attached to the baby in my belly she would never get to grow up with. After already suffering through 2 earlier losses, my mental and emotional resources were dwindling. I don't know that I can read the article, but your support soothes my soul.

  5. I have a friend who terminated a pregnancy because the fetus had a genetic condition that would lead to an early, painful death. Her loss was just that, a terrible, heart breaking loss. It is a lose/lose situation. The only shred of comfort was in the fact that her baby wouldn't know any pain, vrs the alternative.

  6. Thank you. I was horrified by the comments yesterday. It helps to see support like this.

  7. I agree with the comments above.

    And yes, it's essentially advanced notice of impending death. It's a shitty hand to be dealt, whether you know it's coming or not.

    I have a friend who was given a not compatible with life dx and chose to carry to term, and the baby lived two hours after his birth. She treasures those moments and I'm glad they were able to give her comfort.

    But I'm not sure I could make the same decision. I have no idea what I would do, but I'm glad I haven't been given that hand.

  8. Thank you for this. I have always felt that my situation (termination at 18w6d for T18) was more akin to a removal of life support than an abortion. My child would not have lived in the outside world, and may not have continued to do so within me for very much longer. I didn't want my baby's life to end, I didn't chose to end Blue Sunday's life for my benefit.
    I just had a situation where my uncle passed away after removing him from life support. We were at a catholic hospital and the priest and doctor told us the same thing: my uncle's body was failing and was not going to recover. They couldn't say for certain that he was without suffering, but they do know that he he could feel anything it was not pleasant. They wouldn't condemn us either way, but that their personal choice would be to end life support. How is it that for a born, grown man even the priest agrees with letting the dying go, but this is not the case with the unborn? My decision was a true dilemma, 2 equally undesirable options. In both of which I lost my child. It was a bit of a relief to have some advanced warning. I had time to come to terms, to explain to my baby my love and my choice (while in utero) and then to let him free. I can only imagine the horror of going to a normal appointment and not hearing a heart beat, or losing the baby in birth- but I can imagine well enough not to be critical, I can imagine feeling that hurt so well I don't need to question who had it worse. No one wins when a baby dies.

  9. It was me. I mean, I did have to make this choice, and I can say that it is way more complicated than anyone who has not had to do it can imagine. Because there are questions and concerns that factor into your decision that you would never even know were factors, until you were deciding for yourself. For example, what do you do when your partner very clearly is not okay with parenting a disabled child? What do you do when the care for your child will most likely fall exclusively to you, such that you may not be able to work, and your partner does not want to participate? What do you do when you know your child will not be able to get health insurance and will be financially crippled for his entire life, assuming he lives long enough to become, and can and does actually become, an independent adult? (Not as much of a concern now thanks to the Affordable Care Act.) Do you tell your child that you knew about the pain and suffering he would endure? How can you possibly know what is the right thing to do when no one can predict the severity of the disease that your child will experience, and no one can predict what quality of life he will have, and yet you are the only one who can make that choice? And thankfully it is still available as a choice, because as horrible as the choice may be, there is an alternative that could be worse.